I had a few different writing options for today, but none of them felt quite right. One felt too vulnerable; I may write about it another day. The other one felt too negative; I really try to avoid putting negativity out into the universe. Instead, I will write about an event that happened this time last year. Looking back, I can state with all of my heart that I am glad to have had the experience. However, when I was going through it, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have or should have. It’s funny how that happens in life…as we are going through an experience, it is uncomfortable, and we just want it to end. It may even feel miserable, but a year later, we look back on it with fondness.
I want to share two important things that explain how and why I got stuck on an Airforce base on mainland Japan.
The first part is the good part. My husband and I had just flown from Japan to Hawaii to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with his family. Getting there was as easy as international travel could be. We landed, found a Target and a Ross, then met up with his family when they arrived. We spent five days enjoying time with one another. We ate fabulous food. The Airbnb had spectacular views. We saw dolphins. We played on the beach. We drank wine by the pool. You really could not have asked for a better experience. We were living the dream!
Hawaii life – living the dream!
The second part has a little good, a little not-so-good, and a happy ending.
Due to the strict Japanese Covid restrictions, we could not fly from Hawaii to Okinawa without either doing ten days of quarantine on a US military base or catching a military flight from mainland Japan to Okinawa. We were lucky to even have that option. Japan was not allowing tourists into their country, and they were making their residents stay in quarantine-hotels. Because we are in Japan for military purposes, we could quarantine on US bases or our homes (if we could get home). Getting home would be the hard part.
From the Tokyo airport, there were US shuttles that would transport military personnel and their families from the airport to the US bases. We shuttled to Yokota Air Force Base because it has aircraft that fly from it to the Kadena Air Force Base on Okinawa. There would be two scheduled flights per week, and randomly other planes would be going from Yokota to Kadena. You have to check into the terminal daily to find out about the random planes. In our minds, there were plenty of options for us, and we didn’t have another choice, so we took the shuttle to the Air Force Base and hoped to get on a flight soon.
My husband had work to do in Hawaii, so he was on military orders. This fact plays a part in the story.
Two days after we arrived on Yokota, an aircraft had a few seats available, and because my husband was on orders, he was able to get on the flight. Because I am a military spouse, who was not in the process of moving, I fell in the last category or group of travelers who were considered. People traveling because of an emergency, families moving, military personnel on orders, and active-duty military were all higher-ranking groups (as they should be.) If all of the seats were taken by travelers who were in higher groups, I would have to stay another day and hope for another flight. Of course, I was left on Yokota, and my husband returned to Okinawa.
For seven more days, I made the mile walk from the hotel to the terminal with hopes of getting on a flight. For seven more days, I would be in the last group with no remaining seats, so I would walk back to the hotel. I was frustrated and bored. (What I wouldn’t do for that experience again. I would love to be stuck in a hotel room with no responsibilities and no obligations.) Every day, I would run, go to the gym, read a book, take a nap, and eventually I made some friends.
There was a group of ladies, who were just like me. We were all stuck, and we were all racking up hotel bills. We all worked out every day, and once we found one another, we began going to dinner together. We learned about each other. We laughed. We ate. We drank. We did that mile walk to the terminal everyday, and we bitched and moaned together. Looking back, I would love to be able to be trapped in a hotel with a group of fun, interesting women, where all we had to do was workout, eat, drink, and bitch and moan. However, at the time, all I wanted was a seat on a plane. I just wanted to go home.
I ended up spending nine days total and over $1,000 on the hotel room. I also ended up asking one of the women if she would be my roommate. It was nice not being alone, and I think she appreciated a free room. Who knows how much I spent at Chilis on those daily meals, and I have no idea how much I spent at the BX. I needed warmer clothes, snacks, and more toiletries. I ended up spending more days trapped on that air base than I did in Hawaii, and I ended up making very special friends.
I ended up throwing away that purple tank top. I was so sick of wearing it. I wore these 2 tops every day for 10 days plus the days I wore them in Hawaii, and I did laundry every other day. I also didn’t end up buying most of the things in the cart. Was just shopping to pass time, but I didn’t need all of those clothes. I bought a sweater, a vest, and a hoodie to get me through the week.
Would I do it again? If you asked me this question a year ago, I don’t know that I would do it again. I was so frustrated. I hated being trapped, and I hated being left behind.
If you asked me that question today, I would say ABSOLUTELY! I would do just about anything to spend time with my family. I also loved making new friends. The experience is one that I will never forget, and when else would I walk down a street pushing a grocery cart? (We got so tired of walking with our luggage that we finally found a way to get the luggage from the hotel to the terminal every day.)
Never judge a woman pushing a grocery cart down the street. You never know how many days she has made the walk, and you never know what drives a person to choose to push a cart.
I don’t know if you need this reminder, but I needed the reminder. There are times when we are going through experiences that are challenging, frustrating, and just tough. When we are going through these times, all we think about is the tough, and we forget to think about what a gift it might be. As I write this, I am having one of those days. It’s one of those days where I am overwhelmed, highly anxious, and I just want to get through it. I need to remember that I will look back on this time with fondness. As stressed as I am, I still have time to drink coffee and write a blog.
I would love to be traveling with this group of fun and fabulous group of women. They are truly so very special, and I am glad I got to spend some time with them!
2 thoughts on “Marooned on Yokota”
Some of the craziest times make great memories! I was so very sorry that you were stuck like that and would have done anything to change it – except give up the wonderful days of Thanksgiving and having all of our babies celebrating together! You teach me new ways of looking at life everyday. I’m so very proud of the woman that you’ve become!😘❤️😘❤️😘